What are the seven seals, seven trumpets, seven signs and seven bowls of Revelation?
The book of Revelation is outlined with a sequence four sets of symbols (7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 signs and 7 bowls) and each one is separated by a scene that occurs in heaven.
Seven seals are the first set of symbols. The seals provide an overview of the terrors that will occur in the Tribulation period. The description of the Tribulation period begins in chapter 6 and ends in chapter 19. The first six seals are described in Revelation 6:1-16. A seventh seal will be mentioned in Revelation 8:1, but it telescopes into seven trumpets.
First Scene in Heaven
The first scene in the description of the Tribulation period in the book of Revelation occurs in Revelation 7:1-17. In this scene we encounter the 144,000 witnesses (Revelation 7:4-8) and the tribulation martyrs (Revelation 7:9-17). This interlude focuses on the spread of the gospel in the Tribulation and the death of Tribulation saints.
The seventh seal telescopes into the Seven Trumpets. The first six Trumpets occur in Revelation 8:1-9:21. The trumpets describe a series of specific judgments on the earth and the release of demonic forces.
The first woe occurs in Revelation 8:13. The verse reads,
Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!” Revelation 8:13 (NASB)
There are three “woes” in the book of Revelation. The final one occurs at the time of Armageddon.
Second Scene in Heaven
The second scene in the description of the Tribulation occurs in Revelation 10:1-11:14. This scene includes a “strong angel” which is a giant angel (Revelation 10:1-11). During this break in the description of the Tribulation period the two witnesses also appear (Revelation 11:1-13). This scene focuses on the spread of the gospel and the ministry of the two witnesses.
The second woe is referenced in Revelation 11:14 and occurs at the end of the second scene. The verse reads,
The second woe is past; behold, the third woe is coming quickly. Revelation 11:14 (NASB)
This second woe apparently refers to the first six trumpets that have occurred.
The seventh trumpet occurs in Revelation 11:15 and telescopes into seven signs. It is commonly believed that the seven trumpets telescope into the seven bowls, but a close examination of Revelation reveals that a sequence of signs follows the trumpets. Beginning in Revelation 12:1 the first sign is given to us.
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. Revelation 12:1-2 (NASB)
The second sign is a dragon in Revelation 12:3,
Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. Revelation 12:3 (NASB)
The third sign is a male child in Revelation 12:5-6. The fourth sign is Michael the archangel (Revelation 12:7-17). The fifth sign is the antichrist (Revelation 13:1-10) and the sixth sign is the False prophet is Revelation 13:11-18).
Third Scene in Heaven
The third scene occurs in Revelation 14:1-20. This scene includes another glimpse of the 144,000 witnesses (Revelation 14:1-5). The scene also includes an angel presenting the gospel (Revelation 14:6-13) and the judgment called Armageddon (Revelation 14:14-20).
The seventh sign telescopes into the seven bowls (Revelation 15:1, 7). The first six bowls occur in Revelation 15:1-19:21. They describe worse plagues on the planet, the universe, animals and human life. The final bowl is Armageddon.
The third woe occurs in Revelation 18:10, 16 and 19. Revelation 18 describes the final aftermath that will occur on the earth as a result of the battle at Armageddon. Revelation 19 describes the actual battle at Armageddon.
The seven bowls conclude the description of the Tribulation period in the book of Revelation(Revelation 6:1-19:19).
Suggested Links:Studies in Revelation
Ten Revelation Charts